Nepal: Laws

Nothing against the “letter and spirit”

This directive for journalists was published in Gorkhapatra, the government-owned daily, on February 3:

“Invoking Sub Clause 1 of Clause 15 of His Majesty’s Print and Publication Act 2048 and considering the nation and national interest, His Majesty’s Government has banned for six months any interview, article, news, notice, view or personal opinion that goes against the letter and spirit of the Royal Proclamation on 1 Feb 2005 and that directly or indirectly supports destruction and terrorism. In line with the arrangement in the Print and Publication Act 2048, action will be taken against anyone violating this notice.”

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Invoking powers to suppress

Here are excerpts from the 1991 Print and Publication Act. The government’s February 3 directive invoked Clause 15 to issue vast, nationwide bans against news coverage:

Press and Publication Act, 2048 BS (May 30, 1991)

Chapter 4 (Regarding newspapers/publications)

Clause 12 of the Act: No pre-publication ban

Except for the provisions mentioned in Clauses 14 and 15, no pre-publication ban shall be imposed on any news, article or any other reading material in any paper.

Clause 14: Ban on publication: The following topics cannot be published in any book or newspapers:

a) Causing hatred or disrespect against His Majesty and royal family or encouraging disregard or animosity or hurting the prestige of His Majesty.

b) Endangering sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Kingdom of Nepal.

c) Disrupting security, peace and order in the Kingdom of Nepal.

d) Creating enmity among the people of the various caste, religion, area, region community and spreading communal disharmony.

e) Hurting good intention, morality and social honor of the common people.

Clause 15:
Prohibition on publication: (1) Keeping in mind the national interest, His Majesty’s Government, by publishing a notice, may issue orders prohibiting news, notice and any other reading materials on any specific topic or incident related to any region for a period of stipulated time, or issue orders to the effect that materials can be published only after it is scrutinized by a designated authority.

(2) No one should publish, translate or refer to such news, notice or reading materials after orders have been issued as per sub-clause (1).

Clause 16: Control over import of foreign publications: (1) His Majesty’s Government can issue orders to stop the import of foreign publications if they contain materials with the following intentions, or causing such possible consequences:

a) Speaking against national interests or honor.
b) Disrupting peace, order and security of the nation.
c) Damaging relations with a foreign country or government.
d) Creating enmity among the people of the various caste, religion, area, region community and spreading communal disharmony.
e) Hurting good intention, morality and social honour of the common people.

(2) If a concerned customs or postal official suspects that imported publications contains materials prohibited by sub-clause (1), he may restrict the consignment, open, inspect, and send two copies of the suspected publication to the local authority with an invoice and keep the rest.

(3) If the local authority finds there are grounds to restrict the publication from being distributed after receiving it from customs or postal official as per sub-clause (2), he may notify the importer, giving him the reasons for such an action; and if there are no grounds to stop the publication from being distributed, then he may issue order within 12 hours of receiving the said copies, to customs or postal official to release the publication held by them to the importer.

(4) His Majesty’s Government may remove the restrictions imposed as per sub-clause (1) at any time if it feels necessary.

Clause 17: No export, sale or distribution of banned or prohibited publications: (1) No one should export banned or prohibited publications.

(2) No one should deliberately print, sale, or exhibit banned or prohibited publications.

Chapter 6 (Punishment)

Clause 27:
If anyone publishes banned items under Clauses 14 and 15, the publisher or editor of that publication will face punishment under prevailing laws; if there are no such laws, then they will be fined up to Rs 10,000 [rupees] or face imprisonment for one year or both.

Clause 28: Export, sale or distribution of banned or prohibited publications: (1) If anyone exports banned or prohibited publications, the local authority will fine him up to Rs 5,000 and also seize such printed materials.

Clause 29:
Translation, Reference to prohibited publications: If anyone translates or refers to prohibited materials, the local authority will fine him up to Rs 5,000 and also seize such printed materials

Clause 30:
Import of foreign publications: If anyone imports any foreign publication restricted under Clause 16, the local authority will fine him up to Rs 5,000 and also seize such printed materials

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One region’s list of dos and don’ts

Wide bans on reporting that violates “the letter and spirit” of King Gyanendra’s February 1 royal proclamation prompted some local officials to draft specific guidelines for the media in their regions. The District Administration Office in the midwestern city of Nepalgunj issued the 12-point directive below to newspaper editors on February 7. Newspapers in other districts have received similar directives.

1. Newspapers formally registered and in publication in Nepalgunj will publish only within the terms and conditions of this notice and only after fully understanding the conditions mentioned therein.

2. No newspapers shall publish news that could have a negative impact upon the country’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, or law and order.

3. Nothing shall be published that may undermine in any way the institution of the monarchy and the royal proclamation of February 1.

4. No news relating to strikes called by Maoists or their sister organizations, or to the loss of life and property caused by the Maoists against the security forces and government agencies, shall be published.

5. Losses on the Maoist side during security operations may be published, but the incidental loss of civilian lives cannot be published beyond what is mentioned in the statement given by the government spokesman.

6. Civilian losses due to Maoist activities may be published.

7. Security authorities can verify any information about the Maoist activities that the press may have received through any medium.

8. Mistakes and irregularities by government agencies may be published after thorough investigation and where possible with proof. But unfounded reports that assassinate character or demoralize civil servants are prohibited.

9. Notices and activities of political associations and other affiliated organizations may not be published, but those of social, religious, and economic organizations may be published.

10. News, articles, or features published or broadcast from abroad, relating to Maoists and other political organizations, may not be published even by direct quote. News about Maoist activities in the Indian Territory may not be published.

11. All newspapers must send a copy of the published newspaper free of cost to the monitoring team.

12. Other directives given by the Ministry of Information and Communications should be followed.

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